The vertebral column (spine), together with sternum and ribs, constitutes the skeleton of the trunk of the body. The vertebral column makes up about two-fifths of the total height of the body and is composed of a series of bones called vertebrae.
The adult vertebral column typically contains 26 vertebrae.
7 cervical vertebrae — in the neck region
12 thoracic vertebrae — chest region
5 lumbar vertebrae — supporting the lower back
5 sacral vertebrae (fused together into one bone called sacrum);
4 coccygeal vertebrae (fused into one or two bones called coccyx). Prior to the fusion of the sacral and coccygeal vertebrae, the total number of vertebrae is 33.
Between adjacent vertebrae from the first vertebra to the sacrum are fibrocartilaginous intervertebral discs. Each disc is composed of an outer fibrous ring consisting of fibrocartilage, called the annulus fibrosus and an inner soft, pulpy, highly elastic structure, called nucleus pulposus. The discs form strong joints, permit various movements of the vertebra column and absorb vertebral shock. The intervertebral discs are subject to compressional forces while performing the function of shock absorbers, the discs between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae and between the fifth lumbar vertebra and sacrum usually are subject to more forces than other discs.
If the anterior and posterior ligaments of the discs become injured or weakened, the pressure developed in the nucleus pulposus may be great enough to rupture the surrounding fibro-cartilage. If this happens, the nucleus pulposus may protrude posteriorly or into one of the adjacent vertebral bodies. This state is called slipped disc.
Most often the nucleus pulposus slips posteriorly towards the spinal cord and spinal nerve. This movement exerts pressure on the spinal nerves, causing considerable, sometimes very acute, pain. When intra-abdominal pressure is increased by coughing, sneezing or other movement, symptoms are aggravated, and cervical muscle spasm may often occur. Neurologic abnormalities may include decreased reflexes of the deep tendons of the biceps and triceps and decreased sensation and muscle atrophy or weakness in the forearm or hand.
Complete bed rest is necessary for a few days for fast recovery and healing. Complete immobilization of spine is the safest and quickest route of healing and recovery. The duration of immobilization required depends upon the degree of injury. In the later stage yoga therapy should be applied, which promotes the recovery.
Asanas in the initial stage (Mostly backward bending asanas)
Makara Asana – The Crocodile Posture
‘Makara’ means ‘Crocodile’. While doing this Asana body resembles the shape of ‘crocodile’, hence it is known as Makarasana. It is also considered a relaxative Asana like Savasana. Makarasana increases the heat of the body.
There are two versions of Makarasana practiced in (1) prone position and (2) supine position.
Position of readiness
Lie face down on the floor on your stomach, hands stretched backwards close to the thighs and the legs straight.Steps
Slowly spread out both the legs. The toes should remain out and heels inward.
Slowly fold the left hand at elbow bringing it from below the armpit. Place it in the right shoulder. Fold the right hand at the elbow and place it on the left shoulder.
Place your head on the triangle made by both the elbows. If it is difficult to rest the head, keep chin between the elbows
As all the muscles are relaxed, as well as the heart beats and the breathing also slow down. Though the basic operation turns slow, the body gets good rest.
This is beneficial in Asthma. It corrects the acquired wrong process of respiration due to
Asthma etc. Abdominal muscles get massage.
Those having heart problem, obesity, gas or high blood pressure should not practice it Asanas later stage.
Utthan Pada Asana – Raised-feet Posture
In Utthan Pada Asana, both the legs are lifted upwards. This asana gives excessive strain to the spine. In case of any spinal injury this asana can be practiced by lifting one leg at a time.
Position of Readiness
Lie dawn on your back on the floor. Keep the palm down and near to the body. Bring the heels and toes together and keep them loose. Make the whole body straight and look towards ceiling. Breath normally.Steps
Inhale slowly but deeply through both the nostrils.
Stretch out both your toes as much as you can.
Now holding your breathe lift both the legs up about 10 to 12 inches high from the floor. Retain for about 5 seconds.
Exhale slowly and begin lowering the legs simultaneously. Complete exhaling by the time your legs are brought back to the floor.
Don`t do more than five times a day.
People who have had spinal injury can do the asana by lifting each leg alternatively. Do two rounds with each leg.
Reason for the precaution is that Utthan Pada Asana brings great strain on the whole of spine and also rest of body.
This asana exercises all the abdominal muscles, both internally and externally removing constipation, indigestion and gas trouble.
It corrects the disorder of pancreas.
Strengthens the spinal cord and corrects disorders of the back. Takes away the extra weight of abdominal areas and has great curative and corrective effects on troubles in the waist, buttocks and hip-joints
Pavanmukta Asana – The Wind Releasing Posture [*Note]
Position and Readiness
There are two methods of doing this asana:
In stand up pose and in lying pose. We will see it in lying position.
Lie dawn on your back on the floor. Keep the palm down and near to the body. Bring the heels and toes together and keep them loose. Make the whole body straight and look towards ceiling. Breath normally.
Lift one knee up towards the chest.
Put the same side hand on the ankle and other hand on knee.
Pull the knee towards the chest without any pull on the ankle.
Without disturbing the posture relax all muscles and continue normal breathing and stay in that position for 6 to 8 sec.
While releasing slowly move hands to normal position, leg to original position.
Repeat this with other leg pressed against chest/ stomach.
All the foot and calf asanas help in returning the stagnant lymph and venous blood. They relieve tiredness and cramp, and prevent venours thrombosis especially in bedridden, post-operative patients. It activates the pancreas and other organs of the abdomen and also relieves wind trouble, acidity etc… It loosens the hip-joints and activates the abdominal muscle and intestines and ultimately cures the constipation, and corrects the malfunctioning of stomach. It is easy asana and people of any age can do it.
People who have undergone an operation on belly or suffering from hernia and piles, etc. should perform this asana after consulting some Yoga Expert. Similarly, the pregnant women should also not practice it.
Salabha Asana – Locust Posture
Salabha Asana is a reverse posture to the Bhujanga Asana (Cobra Posture), which gives a backward bend to the spine. It is recomended to practice the Salabha Asana after releasing the Bhujanga Asana. Bhujanga Asana activates the upper area while Salabha Asana activates the lower waist down area of the body. This asana gives maximum benefit and creates balance so Bhujanga Asana is followed by Salabha Asana. Since full-locust is strenuous, it is better for the beginners to practice the half-locust posture before attempting the full-locust.
Full Salabha Asana
Position of readiness
Lie face down on the floor on your stomach, hands stretched backwards close to the thighs and the legs straight.Now making fists of the hands bring them together beneath the thighs with the wrists touching.
Inhale slowly but deeply through both the nostrils and retaining the breath make your head straight and put the chin on the floor (use a folded towel underneath the chin). Tighten both the legs and lift them up as high as you easily can. Do not bend the knees.
Stay in the same posture for 5 to 6 seconds.
Exhale and simultaneously lower the legs slowly to the floor. Do not drop the legs. By the time the legs touch the floor you should finish exhaling.
Start with three rounds on the first day. Do not practice more than four rounds.
For the beginners, it is always better to practice the half-locust posture before attempting the full-locust.
Half – Salabha Asana
For the half Salabha Asana, the position, the breathing and the body conditioning are as same as the full- Salabha Asana. The only difference is that you lift one leg up at a time. Lift legs alternatively.
It activates the kidneys, liver, pancreas, abdominal area and all the organs of the lower part of the body. It removes constipation, wind troubles, indigestion, dysentery, diarrhea, acidity and gastro- intestinal disorders.
The Salabha Asana brings flexibility to the cervical (upper back) region and strength to the lower back. Brings a rich blood supply to the spine and the whole upper area
Bhujanga Asana – Cobra Posture
Bhujanga means Cobra. Bhujanga Asana is always practiced as the first in a series of backward bending movements. In this asana the spine is arched backward gently promoting flexibility.
Position of readiness
Lie straight on your stomach, keeping the palms on the floor below the shoulder blades and the elbows touching the middle part of the body. Keep the heels together and toes flat on the floor. Breathe normally.
Bend the head and neck backward.
Inhaling slowly, raise the head and chest, above the naval area, upwards. Tighten the legs allover from the waist down to the toes.
Retain your breathe and hold in the same position for about 6 to 8 seconds.
Exhale and simultaneously lower the head towards the floor. Relax your body and rest with your right or left cheek on the floor for about 6 seconds. Now you have completed one round of bhujanga asana.
Start with three rounds on the first day and increase to a maximum of four rounds. Benefits :
Bhujanga asana activates and energizes the upper areas of the body like the chest, shoulders, neck, face and head, giving a youthful appearance and the abdominal area, because of this activation, the pancreas, liver and other organs of the digestive system are strengthened and normalized.
Increases flexibility, rejuvenates spinal nerves and brings a rich blood supply to the spinal region.
It has some special benefits for women. Helps relieve problems of the uterus and ovaries and menstrual problems. A regular practice of this asana makes child birth easy.
It is recommended to practice the Salabha Asana after releasing the Bhujanga Asana.
In a kneeling position, move forward the right foot until the lower leg-having tibia and fibula bones-is perpendicular to the ground. Keep the back straight, arms by the sides, and inhale. Next, exhale while moving the weight of the body forwards and maintaining an upright position of the trunk. Bend the knee as much as possible while keeping the heel firmly on the ground. Inhale, while at the same time returning to the initial posture.
Ardha-Bhujangasana is an effective way of making the spinal column, legs, knees and ankles more supple. This asana is excellent way to prepare the body for pregnancy.
Supta-Vajra Asana – Reclining Thunderbolt or Diamond Pose [*Note]
Supta-Vajrasana is further development of Vajrasana. We lie on our back with folded legs, hence, it is called Supta-Vajrasana.
Position of Readiness
Let the right hand and place it on the floor behind the buttock. Then move the left hand also behind the hip and bend a little backward.
Slowly place the right elbow and then left elbow on the ground towards backside.
Slowly straighten you hands and completely lie on your back. While lying on your back, control your weight. Do not jerk otherwise you may get injury
Shoulders should rest on the ground. Beginners may keep their hands on respective thighs. Knees should remain together.
Now you stretch both the arms and hands on both sides of the body. After practicing this position fairly well, make the shape of a scissor with both hands bring them under the shoulders. Right hand will remain under left shoulder and left under the right, head in the middle of them.
Now do some deep breathing exercises by just inhaling and exhaling the air through both nostrils. Stay in that position for 6 to 8 sec.
While returning to the original position, first take out your hands and place it by the side of your body.
Now, with the help of elbows sit as in the first position.
Rest for few seconds and then repeat the asana with the same process.
Beginners may keep their knees apart if they find it difficult to keep them together.
Do it three to four times daily.
It has special benefits for diabetes, though the asana activates the pancreas.
It also corrects the disorder of the stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys, spleen and the organs of the abdominal area by activating and energizing them.
It has also good effect on sex glands. It enhances sexual potentiality. It is useful in high blood pressure and sciatica.
Those suffering from gases and pain in hip should consult yoga expert before practice it.
Anulom-Vilom and Naadi shodhan
Naadi Shodhan Pranayama (Naadi purifying Pranayama)
Balancing the Ida and Pingala, the mental force and vital force is one of the main objectives of Pranayama. Left nostril (Ida) and right nostril (Pingala) if balanced can awaken Sushumna (the psychic nadi or channel carrying kundalini) nadi. Swami Swatmarama recommends Nadi Shodhan Pranayama, (alternate nostril breathing with Kumbhaka and Bandhas) for purifying Ida Naadi and Pingala Naadi.
Purification of Naadis
Pranayama is Practice only after purifying Naadis. Naadis can be purified by practicing ANULOM-VILOM Pranayama. A common learner must begin the practice of Pranayama with Anulomvilom. Being simple in nature, even common people also easily practice Anulomvilom Pranayama. It is a kind of Naadi Shodhana, or the sweet breath, is simple form of alternate nostril breathing suitable for beginning and advanced students. Naadi means channel and refers to the energy pathways through which prana flows. Shodhana means cleansing — so Naadi Shodhana means channel cleaning.
Sit down in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close your right nostril with your right hands thumb and inhale through left nostril as long as you can easily inhale. When your lungs are full, close both the nostrils and hold the breath for some time. Then slowly exhale through the right nostril closing the left (use your ring and little finger). Thereafter close your left nostril and inhale through the right nostril and then closing both the nostril holds the breath in your body and ultimately exhale the breath through your left nostril. Thus you finish one cycle (Avartana) of veins purifying Pranayama. Practice three or four Avartanas daily and increase this practice slowly. Once practiced well, practice this Pranayama in the ratio of 1:2:2, That is inhale for four seconds; hold the breath for eight seconds and then exhale the breath in eight seconds. Increase this ratio slowly upto a ratio of 5:20:10.
it`s an excellent method to perform Pranayama that does away with the lung`s diseases.
Through this Pranayama, the blood gets an increased amount of life giving oxygen that thoroughly cleans and purifies it, calms the mind, soothes anxiety and stress, balances left and right hemispheres, promotes clear thinking . It also purifies the Arteries and veins, through which the blood flows in the body
Beside the above mentioned asana and pranayama practice of yoga nidra, concentration and meditation gives the best result.
Asanas- Asana removes rigidity and brings flexibility to joints and help correct bad posture
Pranayama -Breathing patterns can affect the spine in various ways, such as movement of the ribs and changes in pressure within the chest and abdomen. Exhaling can help relax muscles.
Relaxation and Meditation- Relaxation provides a physiologic antidote to stress. Imaging techniques may also be used. For example, imagining a movement before it is actually performed makes it easier to move the muscles that are being used.
By exercising carefully, and by practicing a simple routine of exercise, breathing, and meditation every day, you can help your back and neck become as strong and healthy as possible.
[*Note : consult your doctor before practicing this posture]